|A scene from "Bagong Harana." Photo from Karla Gutierrez' Facebook page
MANILA, Philippines – The musical revue “Ang Bagong Harana” by the Philippine Opera Company is back for a special limited run starting tonight, June 6, after only four performances late last year.
And why not? “Ang Bagong Harana” is a timeless show that deserves countless more reruns in the future.
“We kept getting inquiries about a repeat run," Karla Gutierrez, who heads the Philippine Opera Company, said. “Which is why we are bringing back the show in its original form, with most of the original cast. It is a difficult effort to try and do something truly Filipino nowadays.”
Directed by Floy Quintos, the revue features both traditional and contemporary Filipino songs rendered in the classical style and interspersed with dances by the award-winning Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group.
Despite the simplicity of both the concept and the execution, it’s a refreshing break from the constant blast of Western-influenced Pinoy pop that dominate the airwaves, as well as TV and concert stages.
Gutierrez said the show aims to show the wealth of our traditional and contemporary music.
“In this age of globalization, it is all the more crucial for us to know who we are and what we have that we can call Pinoy. A lot of performers may say that we are the best in the world. But we wanted to go a step further and prove it by using our own traditional and contemporary material,” she said.
“Ang Bagong Harana” also brings back fond memories of the ‘80s and ‘90s when local artists staged ambitious concerts that showcased the best of original Pilipino music.
Concept-concerts such as Kuh Ledesma’s “Ako ay Pilipino” and Celeste Legaspi’s “Komiks Konsyerto” were high points in terms of presenting the range of Filipino music for pop audiences.
The Metropolitan Theater, when it was still active, also regularly staged star-studded Broadway-style extravaganzas featuring kundimans and other traditional Filipino music.
Quintos, in fact, wrote several of Ledesma’s concerts at the Music Museum, which never failed to incorporate Filipino suites amid the pop diva’s hits, as well as US Top 40 material.
“Ang Bagong Harana” may not have the high-concept presentation of Ledesma and Legaspi, but it certainly has the heart.
For the original run, the 12 members of the Philippine Opera Company – Twinkle Prietos, Al Gatmaitan, Janine Santos, Floyd Tena, Jurgen Unterberg, Lawrence Jatayna, Jack Salud, Nazer Salcedo, Marian Santiago, Marvin Gayramon, Charley Magalit and Gutierrez – performed as a true ensemble, treating even the simplest of Filipino folk songs with respect.
The two-act musical revue opened with a medley of children’s songs from the lullaby “Ili-ili” to the playful “Si Filemon” and “Leron-Leron Sinta.”
Another suite evoked the rural spirit with regional classics such as “Pamulinawen” and “Dandansoy” before erupting into festive folk songs like “Pandangguhan” and “Ang Pipit.”
The classic kundimans were presented against a revolutionary backdrop, the love songs transcending the mere romantic to become patriotic anthems. While the medley climaxed with the somewhat expected “Bayan Ko,” the suite also included stirring renditions of “Nasaan Ka Irog,” “Pakiusap” and “Madaling Araw.”
The Act Two opener actually fits nicely in a Ledesma concert – a tribute to Sylvia La Torre with light comical numbers like “No Touch, Filipino Kostum” and “One, Two, Three.” One can almost imagine Ledesma playfully acting out these numbers with Jograd dela Torre at the Music Museum. This is classic Quintos, if I may say so.
The medley of the greatest hits of composers George Canseco, Willy Cruz and Ryan Cayabyab allowed the company’s members to shine individually, as they took on pop classics from “Kastilyong Buhangin” to “Ngayon at Kailan Man” to newer hits like “Paano Na Kaya.” Although the selections could have been a bit more adventurous, it was refreshing to hear these songs performed by musically trained artists.
Freddie Aguilar’s “Anak” opened the last suite, before segueing into a patriotic finish with “Pilipinas Kong Mahal” and “Ako ay Pilipino.”
“Ang Bagong Harana” reminds audiences of the simple beauty of the older Filipino songs that have been increasingly drowned by derivative pop, rock and R&B. Sure it’s old-fashioned but it’s always worth revisiting every so often.
And with next week’s celebration of Independence Day, “Ang Bagong Harana” is sure to strike a nationalistic note just when we need it the most.
“Ang Bagong Harana” returns to the Carlos P. Romulo Theater at RCBC Plaza, Makati on June 6-9 at 8 p.m. with matinees on at 3:30 p.m. on June 9 and 10.